Patriots seek program’s second championship

The Century boys basketball team went undefeated in the Camel Shootout in Gillete, Wyo., to begin the year, won the West Region regular season by two games and claimed the region tournament title by 22 points over Bismarck.

Now there’s just one final goal to achieve: win another Class A state title.

The Patriots (21-1) won their first state title in 2011 and are the favorites to bring the hardware back west after Grand Forks Red River and Fargo Shanley reined supreme in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Century didn’t qualify for state in 2012 and finished four last year.

“First and foremost, we have a very experienced basketball team,” Century coach Darin Mattern said. “We have a lot of kids that played at state last year. Going through that experience, there’s a comfort level there. If you look at our team, we feel we are playing our best basketball.”

Century’s title hopes begin today at 2 p.m. against Shanley – the East Region’s No. 4 seed – at the Minot State Dome. The teams didn’t play during the regular season and the Patriots haven’t played a team from the East Region this year.

“We don’t know too much about them,” senior Tyler Rudolph said. “They like to run and gun and we’re going to make them play in the half court and get defensive stops.”

Century’s lone loss came in the regular-season finale against Bismarck and aside from two close contests with St. Mary’s, the Patriots have dominated opponents. Century has won its games by an average of 22 points per game. The Patriots were never tested in the region tournament, with their closest game being a 21-point victory against Mandan in the first round.

As for that loss against Bismarck, it served as a great motivator for the Patriots.

“I think any time you experience adversity, it can make your team better,” Mattern said. “It makes all the drills in practice mean a little bit more.”

Depth is a key factory to Century’s success. The Patriots have five players who average at least seven points per game. Rudolph leads the team in scoring with 17.7 points per game and also pulls down a team-best 9.5 boards while shooting 54 percent from the field and 43 percent from behind the arc.

“We’re pretty a pretty confident team,” Rudolph said. “We just gotta work hard and have a good attitude and everything will work out well for us.”

Senior Robert Hutchins also averages double figures at 12.8 points per contest. Ramey Schatz (7.7 ppg), Ben Holen (7.7), Alex Quist (7.0) and Dalton Feeney (6.9) round out Century’s balanced scoring. Rudolph and Schatz were unanimous all-region tournament team selections.

The Patriots can score – 70.8 points per game – but, more importantly, they can defend as well as any team in the state. They allow just 48.8 points per game, which is best in the state by more than six points (Wahpeton 54.7). Century forces 14.2 turnovers per game.

“Our communication throughout the year has improved greatly,” Mattern said. “We’ve learned each others’ strengths much better on the defensive end – when to help and recover for a teammate. We’ve also done a very nice job taking teams off the foul line. We’ve put an emphasis on that.”

Aside from scoring, the Patriots have held the edge in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.